National Rail cases with longer than 20 days response time
Operator response delays
Not all cases that are open longer than usual are because the operator has not responded to the caseworker. Some cases take longer to deal with as they require further investigation and other cases can be kept open to allow ongoing negotiation between London TravelWatch and the operator. This is acceptable as long as the caseworker keeps the appellant updated on a regular basis.
Some cases where the transport operator has taken what could be considered too long to respond to London TravelWatch, have nevertheless been resolved to the passenger’s satisfaction. The caseworkers are aware that response delays from operators do not necessarily mean negative outcomes for passengers and keep this in mind when chasing the transport operator for a response.
The transport operator sometimes asks for further information that can delay the case being closed while the caseworker requests this from the passenger. Such cases can become lengthy; particularly if the passenger is away at the time the request is made.
National Rail cases with longer than 20 days response times - quarter 4 2016/17
During quarter four there were 28 rail operator cases that took over 20 days to send the response to London TravelWatch. A further six cases were only just over the time limit, the explanation for those particular cases are not given here.
GWR 12 cases
This rail operator changed it customer service contractor, which coupled with a sudden spike in performance delays and claims caused long delays in responses. About half of the GWR cases received in quarter three took longer than 20 working days for the caseworker to receive a response for this reason. GWR kept the casework team up to date with progress and changes throughout this time.
Chiltern 4 cases
Chiltern were not receiving emails from London TravelWatch and therefore were not responding. This was raised with Chiltern who responded quickly, putting a new process into place to ensure that emails from us were caught immediately. The outstanding appeals were treated as priority and responses to them all were received within a few days.
- In this case, the passenger did receive a response within 20 days but directly from Southern rather than via the caseworker. Southern apologised and reminded their staff to respond directly to the London TravelWatch caseworker making the appeal.
- Mr B had made a complaint about a queuing system and Southern had mistakenly responded with comments regarding issues on strike days. London TravelWatch appealed this response but the station manager was on leave. On his return, the station manager asked London TravelWatch to obtain additional information from the passenger and these two issues delayed the response. However, Mr B was fully informed of the circumstances and was satisfied with the final response.
- Mr J was unhappy that there was only an anytime single ticket for his peak time journey and that the cost of this single ticket was only slightly less than the off peak return fare. The caseworker appealed to see if there was any future plans to introduce further ticket options. Southeastern said that as the anytime single cost less than the off peak return ticket, there was no need to add further tickets to the database. The actual journey has been purposely omitted as it would identify the passenger.
- The caseworker received a quick response within the timeframe for this case and wrote to the passenger to see if the offer was acceptable. Despite frequent efforts to contact the passenger, we received no response and eventually closed the case.
- Mr S had a new season ticket that would not consistently open the barriers at some stations. Mr S had tried to get the staff at the station to replace it but they had refused. Mr S approached London TravelWatch who appealed. GTR said that the ticket should have been replaced earlier and apologised for the problem. The case was kept open until Mr S confirmed that he was in receipt of the new ticket and that it consistently opened all the barriers at the stations he used.
- Mrs F had her refund refused because rail replacement bus services had been organised in place of the cancelled train. However, Mrs F had checked before she travelled and the information online only stated the cancelled train so Mrs F decided not to travel. London TravelWatch appealed because the caseworker believed that Mrs F had checked before travelling and was not to know that she would have had to look more closely to find the information about bus replacement services. A longer time was taken while GTR checked to see what information was available to passengers regarding the service. They agreed that the information on the replacement bus service could have been clearer and issued a full refund.
- Mrs T appealed to London TravelWatch as she had not received a response from her complaint to GTR. The caseworker asked GTR to check but they could not find her original complaint. The caseworker asked that GTR respond directly to Mrs T. They did so within the 20 day period but forgot to advise London TravelWatch so the case remained open longer.
Mr X made a delay repay appeal to South West Trains that was refused so he appealed to London TravelWatch. The caseworker believed the passengers’ journey was with Thameslink. The delay was while the caseworker found the journey route taken by the passenger and investigated as to where the delay responsibility lay. As Thameslink had not previously had sight of the complaint, an appeal should not really be made. However, Thameslink accepted that it would not be fair to send the passenger back through the system, so responding favourably offering a full refund. Mr X was very happy that London TravelWatch had resolved the problem and asked that Thameslink donate the compensation to charity.
Virgin Trains East Coast
- This case originally went to Virgin West Coast who refused to take responsibility. Virgin Trains East Coast resolved the complaint to the passengers’ satisfaction but liaising with both operators delayed the case being closed.
- Mrs H was issued a refund by cheque that had the wrong prefix so she could not cash it. She was reassured that the new cheque would be issued but she did not receive it so approached London TravelWatch. The caseworkers’ investigations revealed that each time the refund for the passenger was checked, the complaint was marked refund paid and closed which is why a new cheque was not sent. Finally, our contact at Virgin East Coast circumnavigated the issue by refunding directly into the passengers bank account and also sent some complimentary tickets for the inconvenience caused. Waiting for the passenger to send in the additional information required, added to the delay in closing this case.
Virgin West Coast
On advice from Virgin West Coast, Mrs B used the Virgin app to purchase tickets. On the day she travelled, the app failed so the ticket could not show. By the time staff at Euston had resolved the issue some two hours later, there was no point Mrs B travelling so she went home. When Mrs B tried to claim a refund for her unused journey, Virgin charged her £10 administration fee so Mrs B approached London TravelWatch. The caseworker appealed stating that Mrs B did not travel due to the Virgin app failing and not out of choice. The caseworker also stated that Mrs B was out of pocket as she had to pay additional peak time travel cost in order to get to Euston station. Virgin agreed and refunded both the administration costs and additional travel costs incurred by the passenger.
Ms F trains were cancelled so she used a different rail operator to take a train that went closest to her usual route home and a taxi for the rest of the journey. Ms F wanted to claim for the additional train ticket she had to purchase and the taxi fare. Ms F was using a pay as you go Oyster card to travel which is accepted at Hertford East but not Hertford North. Greater Anglia had refused to offer any refund as no (paper) ticket had been purchased and therefore no contract existed. Therefore, Ms F appealed to London TravelWatch. The caseworker appealed because Ms F had made this journey many time previously so argued that the spirit of a contract existed. In addition, as Ms F could not use her Oyster card to travel to Hertford North so she had to buy the more expensive paper ticket to get close to home. Greater Anglia understood the caseworker’s additional argument that Ms F had chosen the cheapest possible alternative route and agreed, on this occasion, to refund Ms F.